Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Perfect Match

perfect matchThe Perfect Match (The Blue Heron Series)
by Kristan Higgins
Published by Harlequin
448 pages
Genre: chick lit; romance
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5

I heart Kristan Higgins. Like, a lot. I’ve read all of her books and I’ve enjoyed every one. I like the quirky families, apparently mismatched lovers, and I like that love doesn’t come easily to them.

I enjoy the way she writes.

So here we are with her latest, which revisits the Holland family last seen in The Best Man. This time our heroine is Honor, the middle daughter. She is as disciplined and rigid as they come. In fact, her brother-in-law tells her she is unapproachable. She’s also in her mid thirties and not married, so when she decides that she has to change that, she proposes to Brogan, a man with whom she has had an on-again, off-again (a lot more off than on) fling since they were in college. Brogan enjoys the sexy times, but marriage? Brogan doesn’t enjoy the thought of that at all, at least not with Honor.

So now what is she to do?

Fortunately, grandmother Goggy sets Honor up on a blind date with Tom, a British professor. The date is disastrous, but Tom and Honor soon discover that they can help each other out: Honor wants marriage and babies, and Tom needs a green card.

Honor is a difficult character to like, but like her I did. She is so narrowly focused on work and her family that she doesn’t know how to open herself up to someone else. That deficiency, however, allows her to be non-judgmental. Aside from suspecting that Tom enjoys his booze a bit too much, she accepts him as he is. When she realizes that she cares about Tom, she goes all in, albeit with a certain amount of awkwardness.

Tom, however, does not know how to give himself to someone else. His past attempts did not end well, and he has no interest in getting hurt again. He’s far slower to understand love and affection than Honor is, which is a welcome spin on most romances.

Okay, the characters are not all that lovable. I liked Honor, although most of the time I couldn’t figure out why. Tom, likable. The two of them? Likable. But the rest? Uh, no. This is the first time in a Higgins book that the number of unlikable characters outnumbers the likable.

But … that’s life, isn’t it? I think, aside from some of the slapstick, that this is the most realistic of her books. Nothing comes easily to Honor. She’s in her mid thirties, unmarried, no prospects. She feels desperate enough to marry a man just so she can get married. And he’s desperate enough to marry a woman for a green card. You can feel how much each needs this to happen, and that’s one of the things I enjoyed most about this book. Yes, the characters are not the sort you’d want to share an evening with at the pub. But they also do not feel fictional. They feel real.

We have Higgins’ stock quirky characters in evidence, along with a couple of slapstick scenes. Tom’s and Honor’s dance with each other, though, is fun to read. Is it new and different? No. It’s pretty typical Higgins fare, except that we feel we know Honor and Tom.

But it’s fun, sweet, and entertaining. And it’s Kristan Higgins. Even on her worst day, she’s someone I love to read.

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Isn’t She Lovely

isn't she lovelyIsn’t She Lovely
by Lauren Layne
Published by Flirt (Random House)
243 pages
Genre: chick lit; new adult lit; romance
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3.5 / 5

 
That Pygmalion sure was a clever guy. Taking a low rent woman and making her high classy – who knew that story would resurface over and over again, sort of like an Ophelia who just won’t drown?

In this latest retelling, we have Stephanie Kendrick, an NYU student spending the summer before her senior year in a film class because she’d rather be there than at home. Her mother passed away shortly before Stephanie’s high school graduation, and dear old Dad moved to North Carolina, which Stephanie doesn’t really consider “home” anyway.

She meets Ethan Price, a gorgeous rich kid, and opposites sort of attract. Okay, they really attract, much to their collective horror. Stephanie is the last thing Ethan wants in his life, and she would rather be dragged by hounds through the gates of hell than be with him.

If only their hormones were as obstinate.

They are partnered together to write a film script, and the idea they have is to rewrite Pygmalion, updating it with a goth-like heroine who turns into a snazzy society girl, thanks to the careful ministrations of a society boy. And guess what! Stephanie could be just like that goth-like heroine, and Ethan could be just like that society boy!

Their plan is made all the easier when Ethan turns to Stephanie for help: he needs to present a girlfriend to his family to keep his parents from trying to get him back together with the ex-girlfriend who cheated on him.

Isn’t it FABULOUS?

It is … sort of.

Stephanie spends most of the book being utterly dislikable. She’s too wrapped up in herself to be much use to anyone, least of all Ethan. She tries so hard to be all dark and mysterious in an attempt to be the Real Her that she completely loses track of who the Real Her is. Ethan sees, though. And Ethan is funny. He calls her ‘Morticia’ and his “delicate flower.” I liked Ethan, even if he’s a bit cookie cutter and predictable.

The thing is, though, that I enjoyed the book. For all of its “you can see that coming a mile away” plot, it’s fun. And cute. And kind of sweet. You know Ethan and Stephanie will get together, and even when they fake it for the crowd, you know there are true feelings going on between them. They may try to avoid caring for each other, but we know they do. They just have to settle their own lives before they can stop pretending to be someone they aren’t.

I think my biggest issue with this book is the supporting cast. There is nothing new there whatsoever, not even a new twist on an old idea. Ethan’s parents are rich and uptight. SHOCKER. Stephanie’s father loves and supports her even when she’s awful to him. Never seen that before.

Thankfully, Ethan makes it worthwhile, and he keeps you turning the pages. It’s difficult to care about Stephanie because she’s ordinary masquerading as unique. There is so much self-chicanery that I sort of lost interest in her. Only when she realizes what a phony she is does she get interesting. And by then … well, there aren’t that many pages left.

There are some sexy times, and while they are detailed, they are not wildly explicit. It’s more of a “New Adult” than YA novel; I wouldn’t let a young teen read it, for instance.

At $2.99, it’s worth the purchase. You’ll enjoy Ethan, and you’ll enjoy watching him court Stephanie.

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Filed under chick lit, it's a little predictable but nonetheless fun, New Adult lit, romance

Take a Look at Me Now

Take a Look at me nowTake a Look at Me Now
by Miranda Dickinson
Published by AVON
416 pages
Genre: chick lit; romance
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3 / 5

When Nell Sullivan is called into the office of  her boyfriend – and coworker  – she thinks he’s going to pop the question. Sure, they haven’t been getting on all that fabulously lately, but it’s time. They’ve been dating for several years, albeit on and off, but it’s time, isn’t it?

Well, imagine her shock when Aidan not only does not propose, he fires her.

Nell is outraged. Furious. Vengeful.

And a tiny, teensy bit relieved.

She has long harbored a desire to open her own diner, and if this isn’t Fate delivering opportunity, then what on earth is it. She decides to toss reason to the wind and hops a plane to visit a cousin in San Francisco, intending to stay six weeks. Recharge the batteries, get ideas for the diner, and then worry about jobs and paychecks and paying bills.

It doesn’t take long for Nell to realize that this will be more than what she planned. First, there is her love affair with Annie’s, a Haight-Ashbury diner that serves up the most delicious combinations of French toast. Then there is a certain intriguing attraction with a man named Max. He’s tall, dark, handsome, and a good kisser.

In other words, he’s a fantasy come true.

The problem with fantasies is that eventually they recede and reality sets upon us. For Nell, that reality brings a painful lesson and no small amount of questions. Can she start the diner? Can she remain true to her vision? And what about Max?

This is a fun book, if not the most compelling. It’s occasionally frustrating in its transparency. There was one plot twist that I didn’t fully see coming – I wondered if it might be the case but dismissed it – but for the most part, I knew what would happen. Nell herself is not always likable. When she finds out something about Max that she isn’t sure she likes, she does not give him the opportunity to explain himself. We all know that there is more to this situation than she realizes, but she willfully chooses to ignore reason and instead allow her hurt feelings to prevail.

Still, though, it’s cute. Don’t go looking for anything hot, though. There is no headboard rocking, I am sad to report. There is a sweet romance (more than one, actually), and there are delicious descriptions of food.

San Francisco is one of my favorite places to visit. Thanks to Miranda Dickinson, I might have to plan a return trip real soon.

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His Until Midnight

his until midnightHis Until Midnight
by Nikki Logan
Published by Harlequin Kiss
225 pages
Genre: romance, chick lit
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5

What would you do if you had less than one day to convince someone to choose you?

Audrey and Oliver have a standing luncheon every December 20th. (Don’t ask what prompted this particular day and celebration; it’s never fully explained. But it also doesn’t much matter.) They meet in Hong Kong at a swanky multi-starred restaurant and talk. They share details about their lives, professional and personal, and each struggles with the attraction felt for the other.

Oliver and Audrey’s husband have been best friends forever. In fact, Oliver was the best man at their wedding. Even so, he wants her. And Audrey, even though she is married and even though she cares about her husband, wants Oliver. It isn’t so much that her marriage is unhappy as much as it is unfulfilling. She wants more passion, but she is a faithful woman. Nothing will happen.

But then one December 20th, Audrey shows up for lunch with her life completely altered. She skipped the previous year’s meeting, and now she sits before Oliver, angry and hurt. As we come to discover what caused her to stay away from him, we also come to discover that Oliver was perhaps a best friend in name only. He knows something about Audrey’s husband that he has kept from her – something that could devastate her if she knew.

Simmering beneath the feelings of hurt and rancor is the immense sexual attraction these two have for each other. Actually, to reduce it merely to that is to reduce their relationship. They understand each other. Oliver thinks Audrey is “perfect”; she is intelligent, kind, self-effacing, and not caught up in her looks the way other beautiful, attractive women are. For her part, Audrey is drawn to Oliver. She trusts him and believes he has integrity.

As we read their story, we really want them to get together. Like, really a whole lot. For one thing, Oliver seems as if he would rock that headboard right into next month. And Audrey deserves to be the one he rocks it with.

Do they get together? Well, I won’t tell you that, but you are smart people, so I’m pretty sure you can suss this out.

I’ll be honest: when I started reading the book, I wasn’t sure I would like it. But I was drawn in to Audrey and Oliver’s story. I really liked her and I could see what Oliver found so appealing about her. I also liked Oliver, yummalicious man that he is. Nikki Logan knows how to write a compelling story, all the more admirable considering her characters stay in the same location for its duration.

This is a quick, enjoyable read.

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Up to the Challenge (An Anchor Island Novel)

up to the challenge    Up to the Challenge (An Anchor Island Novel)
    by Terri Osburn
Published by Amazon Publishing, Montlake Romance
350 pages
Genre: romance, chick lit
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5

Despite having the body of a centerfold, Sidney prefers to dress like a twelve-year-old boy. It’s deceptive not only for what she covers up – those curves! – but also because it implies that she’s childish or weak willed. Sid Navarro is anything but. She’s tough, almost to a fault. But she when she cares, she cares deeply.

So when the Dempsey patriarch and owner of Anchor Island’s finest family restaurant takes ill, Sid offers to help. Also offering is Lucas Dempsey, the erstwhile black sheep of the family. Although how much of a black sheep you can be when you’re a successful lawyer on the partner track must be asked.

Anyway.

Lucas comes back, and Sid greets the news with some mixed emotions. She has loved Lucas Dempsey since she was a teenager, but Lucas ignored her, barely registering her existence. My, how things change. When Sid rips off her profane t-shirt to reveal a tank top that barely constrains her hot figure, Lucas can’t ignore her any longer. Nor can his nether regions. They notice her real, real well.

So you can see where this is headed, right? Sid struggles with falling for Lucas, who struggles with falling for Sid. The clock is ticking on his time at home; he has that law career to return to, don’t forget. But Anchor Island sprinkles a certain amount of fairy dust on these two, and perhaps they can find a way to be together.

Are there sexy times? Yes. Yes, there are. Perhaps not as detailed as I’d like, although they are not for the prudish. They’re hot. Lucas is hot. LUCAS IS HOT.

The sugar overload may be a bit much for those of you who prefer your stories a little dirtier. Anchor Island is one of those quirky locals you see in novels where all of the locals are humorous and entertaining. And Lucas and Sid are a bit predictable; in fact, little of this book is original.

But it’s fun. It’s a good read, and I admit that I teared up. I enjoyed it, and I don’t often enjoy cute. This is cute. Lucas, though. LUCAS IS HOT.

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Derailed

derailed    Derailed
by Anne Wentworth and Nicole Ciachella
Published by NPC Books
306 pages
Genre: chick lit, romance
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5

Some books are like ether; they pull you under, into their story, where you find yourself surrounded by something you don’t want to leave. Such is the case with this book.

When Louisa’s boss denies her the promotion she deserves, she quits. Such spur-of-the-moment thinking is not of her ilk. She is a scientist, and she is nothing if not logical and orderly. But she’s just so mad. So hurt.

Fortunately, she is about to head to France for her best friend’s wedding. Louisa decides to take advantage of the break in her career action and stick around for a week, or two, or however many she decides she needs. At the wedding, she meets Yves, a gorgeous Frenchman and fellow scientist who lives in London. When Louisa suddenly declares that she would like to visit Normandy in an attempt to better understand her WWII vet grandfather, Yves volunteers to take her.

Theirs is not a romance … at first. But two gorgeous people traveling around France naturally will lead to some heartstrings getting pulled. Neither particularly wants an affair, if for no other reason than both are so practical. Louisa allows herself the fantasy of a vacation fling, promising herself that her heart won’t get broken.

But we see, long before she does, that it might. And so might Yves’.

This is more than a romance, though. Wentworth and Ciachella teach us some history, too, as well as take us on a gastronomical tour of France. You will want some good French wine and decadent French food while you read this book, so consider yourself warned.

I enjoyed the way this story was told. Yes, there were times when the historical element interrupted Yves’ and Louisa’s tale a little too long. But it’s just so lovingly written. You can tell that the writers respect and revere the region and their characters, but not in a way that feels precious or histrionic. Louisa is flawed. She angers and frustrates us with her narrow vision for her life. Yves is a little mysterious, but he’s supposed to be. He reveals bits of himself to Louisa, and he is the one far more willing to take a chance on their relationship than she is. Louisa, however, is so paralyzed that you fear she will never allow herself to be happy.

There are some sexy times, but I wouldn’t say these two rock the headboard. It’s far sweeter, far more gentle. Even so, Yves is … well … he’s YVES. And I think I fell in thrall with him, just a wee bit.

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Filed under chick lit, grab a passport because you will want to go to France, romance

Not Without You

not without you    Not Without You
    by Harriet Evans
Published by Harper Collins
Genre: romance; chick lit
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5

 
Hollywood seems to be a nest of vipers. It’s where sane people go to lose their minds, and where everything is faked. Relationships, feelings, original thoughts. It’s also where women go to starve because they are always too fat.

This book tells the tale of two women who followed the lure to Hollywood, although each had to decide just how much of her soul she was willing to sell for fame.

In one of the storylines, we have Eve Noel, a true movie star, back when there was such a thing. She lit up the silver screen in the 1950s until one day … she stopped. No one knows why, no one knows where she went, and no one knows how she was able to just walk away. As her story unfolds, we discover that she is a woman searching for something. Perhaps even she isn’t sure what that “something” is. She apparently has love, with an older star on whom she had a fierce crush as she grew up. She has fame. She even has a screenwriter who adores her so much that he writes the perfect role for her. So if she has it all, why leave?

The other storyline features Sophie, a modern-day star whose life is her movies. She doesn’t have many friends, she has no relationship with her family, and she is stuck in a rut of making the same movies over and over again. Sophie wants to break out and work on something different, a character different from the one she seems to continually play. Hollywood doesn’t take her seriously, though, and when a romance is engineered between her and a hot actor, she plays along because she needs the fame. She needs to be popular in order to call her own shots. But there is more to this man that she realized. Like Sophie, he is an Eve Noel fan, and he encourages Sophie in attempting to track down Eve and ask her to take a cameo role in an indie that Sophie wants to make.

The two women have more in common than either realizes, and as their stories unfold, we wait to see if their paths will cross. Sophie needs Eve, but does Eve need Sophie?

There is a subplot involving a mysterious person out to harm Sophie. At first I couldn’t decide if I liked that story or not, but it grew on me, largely because of what it helped engineer. I also wasn’t sure I liked Sophie. She’s spoiled and clueless, and she lives such an insulated life that she has no idea that she has no friends. But she rings true, and the more I got to know her, the more I liked her.

Eve is intriguing as well. Unlike Sophie, Eve’s foray into Hollywood was all about the work. She accepted stardom in stride, but it wasn’t fuel for her. Acting was. This is something Sophie needs to rediscover for herself; whereas Eve bolts from Hollywood when she realizes that it demands more than she cares to give, Sophie is willing to keep giving. She wants the fame more than Eve ever did.

I enjoyed this book a great deal. I wanted to find out if Eve and Sophie would meet, and I wanted to know if Sophie would be happy. Harriet Evans writes in a breezy, approachable style that pulls you in to the women’s stories and keeps you there, turning pages and getting more and more hooked.

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